By Neal Whitman, CA, USA

In the midst of the pandemic, it was a dose of medicine to read 323 haiku submitted by 114 poets from 27 countries. Reading haiku always lifts my spirits, even those which bring me a feeling of sorrow, as well as joy, because of the creativity that goes into the art of concision. This year’s contest was based on the United Nations theme of strengthening actions for Nature to achieve sustainable goals. It was uplifting to see that haiku poets around the world were “reading” Nature’s warning signals that we need to take action and to learn of the many ways they “see” how Nature can be the solution and how we can help it be so.

1st prize: Eduard Tara, Romania

all these trees
he planted years ago
new whispering leaves

The substance of this haiku directly addresses the contest theme. Trees, of course, absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, so these trees planted in the past were an investment in our future. The person who planted these trees must have had faith and patience that some day they would help future generations. This person may or may not still be alive, but his trees are. Maybe that is what the leaves are whispering. I found this haiku refreshing to recite out loud. It is lyrical in sound and balanced in sight.

2nd prize: Karin Hedetniemi, Canada

woodpecker tapping —
the steady click of
knitting needles

Woodpeckers are natural helpers! They eat wood-boring insects and insect larvae which are harmful to tree health. A bonus is the grin their tap, tap, tapping brings to those of us nearby. What drew me to this haiku was the second audio image. I can hear the click, click, clicking of a knitter working on a home-made garment which means one less factory-made one. It might be a sweater or a scarf or a blanket. I can “see” the knitter’s focused attention and wearing a smile, thinking of someone who will be warmed by this labor of love. It might even be a gift. I much liked the repeat k sound of click and the repeat of the n sound with knitting needles.

3rd prize: Cezar-Florin Ciobîcă, Romania

Earth Day
on every banner wave

When I think of Earth Day I recall attendingthe the very first one on April 22, 1970. On our local fairgrounds, in addition to speakers there were exhibit booths and many colorful banners with slogans. One connection to forget-me-nots is that flower petals are sometimes called “banners” and this one has five! But, wait. There’s more. This particular flower symbolizes loss, but also hope. The observation of Earth Day and the celebration of this colorful flower bring optimism that there is still time to remedy environmental harm and make repairs needed to make a better future. Earth Day is action-oriented, which the U.N. theme calls us to take. This past year marked its 50th anniversary and its voice remains strong.

7 Commendations (unranked)

Hassane Zemmouri, Algeria 

tree planting campaign..
as many seedlings
as children

What two delightful images: seedlings that begin with the germination of a seed paired with procreation of children.

Srinivas S, India
no-fly zone
the koel begins
to sing again

Koels are found in Asia, Australia, and the Pacific. Cuckoos! How perfect for them to return to their habitat, perhaps after cessation of war and strife. We sing, too, if it means peace is given a chance.

Julie Warther, Wiscounsin, USA

river cleanup
removing a tire
leaving the moon

I now see the moon’s reflection on the water after the river has been cleansed … a much more welcome circle than an old tire.

Hifsa Ashraf Pakistan

paper recycling…
the wind whistles through
a canopy of trees

More paper recycling means less cutting down of trees. Can you hear the whistle, a happy tune?

David Watts, CA USA

the river                  
feels its own way
dam removed

When a dam is removed, not only does the water flow naturally, but the habitat for native species is reestablished as the reservoir disappears and below the dam native plants and animals return. This haiku in only eight words allows us to imagine this.

Julie Bloss Kelsey, Maryland, USA

steam rising
from the compost bin
morning tea

A-ha! Rising from a well-maintained compost bin the smell of dirt and from our cup of tea a welcome aroma to start the day


Sanela Pliško, Croatia  

confronting fear
I put the little spider
back in the garden

Someone has overcome a phobia and accommodated a guest unwelcome in our house.